Background: The book of 3 John is a short, personal letter written by the Apostle John to a man named Gaius. Men named Gaius are mentioned several times in the New Testament, yet, Gaius was a common name at that time, so more than likely, this is the only time we find this man in the Scriptures. Apparently, Gaius was a leader in a local church, and a friend of John. The letter does not make clear which church, but at the time of the writing, John is elsewhere, but plans to visit some time soon. For the time, he is sending another leader named Demetrius (v.12).
John writes this book to his friend to deal with a very specific problem, a man named Diotrephes. Diotrephes was also a leader in the church attended by Gaius, but had used his position of power to gossip, and gain more power. This power grab had shown itself is several ways. First, Diotrephes had rejected the leadership and authority of the Apostle John. As one of the twelve Apostles, Jesus gave John authority to lead the early church in His Name. Diotrephes decided he did not agree with this leadership, and put himself in John’s place. This became entirely evident when John sent a letter to the church, which was to be read to the congregation. Apparently Diotrephes took the letter and would not allow it to be read to the church (v. 9). Second, Diotrephes became a gossip, spreading false rumors about those who did not follow his ideas and leadership. Diotrephes also refused to welcome anyone who came to the church with a desire to preach or teach, and kicked some out of the church for being hospitable to traveling followers of Jesus.
John writes the letter of 3 John to encourage Gaius to receive Demetrius and give him the opportunity to share with the church, even though he will receive opposition from Diotrephes. Someday, John will come as well, but for the time being, Gaius can become a significant leader, used by God to help the church avoid gossip and live in hospitality.
Application: A story tells of a lady who heard a rumor about her pastor and began spreading it throughout the town. She later learned that the rumor was false, but only after telling several people. She came to the pastor, apologized, and asked his forgiveness. He told her that she was forgiven, but he wanted her to do something. He gave the woman a bag of feathers, and he told her to go to the center of town and release the feathers into the wind. She thought it an odd request, but did what was asked of her and returned. He then said, “Now, go gather all the feathers and put them back in the bag.” She realized that this was in impossible task. The feathers were everywhere and being carried by the wind all over town. Her pastor then told her, the same with our words, when we gossip, once the words are released, there is no taking them back, and you never know where they wind will take them.
Diotrephes was a gossip. He was the type of person who would spread rumors, say false things about others, and try to ruin others reputation and exalt his own. As a leader in a church, his words had probably hurt several people, and many had either left, or were even run out of the church. No doubt that Diotrephes gossip had spread throughout the church like a cancer, causing people to choose sides, and pass things on that were not true.
My dad used to tell me that I could think what I wanted, but I needed to be careful of what I said, because once it was out of my mouth, I owned it. Gossip is a very dangerous thing, whether the slander is true or not. We do not want to be like Diotrephes or those around him, spreading rumors, telling half truths, and talking about people behind their back. But, it is hard. When I hear a juicy story, or get information about someone else, I like being in the know, and having a bit of power over that person. The call of Christ leads me to something different altogether. Here are a few steps you might take when you hear the “latest news” or a bit of gossip.
(1)Find the source – before sharing the story, or even considering it as reliable, find out where the story originated. If someone shares a good bit of gossip from you, rather than taking it at face value, find out where the person heard the story. Go to that person and do the same thing. See if you can find the source of the story. It’s funny how stories get changed as they are passed on, and how someone who starts lies will quickly back off of them if they know that others will call them on it.
(2)Seek the truth – If you hear a story about another person, go to that person to find out if it is true. It’s amazing how much gossip would be stopped if someone would take just a minute to e-mail or call the person to see if there is any truth in the story. In fact, this step is a clear Biblical command, and when someone talks about someone without first talking to them, they are in sin.
(3)Work on relationships – At the very heart of it, gossip is one of Satan’s schemes to divide people and wreck the church. If stories are true, love on the person, help them repent, and be a friend. If they are not true, find those sharing the story and encourage them to apologize and repent. Be the type of person who builds relationships and sees the needs of others as important.
John believe Gaius was a builder, the type of person who would reject gossip, and build bridges between people. We need more of these people in God’s church. Make it a point to be like Gaius, and not like Diotrephes.